As a parent, leaving your child with autism in the care of a babysitter can be a daunting experience. You may ask yourself many questions, such as, how will the babysitter cope with your child’s condition? Will they be patient enough to deal with the meltdowns? Will your child have separation anxiety while you’re away?
While it’s normal to feel this way, it’s important to keep in mind that there are babysitters who are specialists in handling children with autism. Knowing what to look for and where to find one can go a long way in boosting your chances of finding the perfect babysitter for your child and being at peace when you’re away.
In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about finding the right babysitter for your child with autism. But first, let’s look at what autism is.
Like many other professions, there are a few traits that make great babysitters for children with autism. Keeping in mind these traits in the selection process can help you choose the right sitter.
Patience - It goes without saying that patience is the most important trait you want your preferred babysitter to have. Caring for a child with autism can be overwhelming at times – from tantrums and aggression to unexpected messes. They can also be sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, and even have emotional outbursts.
A great babysitter should always be patient when dealing with these situations. If the babysitter gets angry or shows signs of agitation, it could provoke your child to harm themselves.
Calmness - Anything can happen when you’re away. For example, if your child is injured, you want the babysitter to remain calm in order to properly deal with the emergency. Your ideal babysitter should also be able to explain to your child why they can’t do something, such as going out when it’s cold or playing with something that may injure them, in a calm way.
Be sure to check that the sitter puts your child’s safety first, rather than trying to impress them by doing everything they want.
Empathy - A great babysitter should also be able to connect with your child and understand their needs. You can know if a sitter has empathy by asking your child how they relate with the sitter, what they often talk about, and if they like them. Also, take some time to watch how they get along together.
Now that you know ‘what to look for’, let’s look at where to find the right babysitter.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
The first step is to ask for referrals. One of the best places to start is your local ASD support group. Also, personal references from people you know, such as family and friends can help you find the right babysitter. Other parents of children with autism have a lot of experience, and they may be willing to help you out. Your child’s grandparents or aunts and uncles could also turn out to be great sitters for your child, especially if they already spend a good amount of time with them.
Most schools for children with autism have school aides, and chances are your child has already bonded with one of them. Bringing a school aide in to babysit could be a great idea for your child. It would make the process seamless as your child is already familiar with them, and they’re trained to handle children with special needs. The aide may be happy to work a few more hours after school work.
Local colleges can also be a great place to find the right sitter for your child with autism. You may find special education students at the college who would love to babysit your child to gain some experience and make extra money. Contact the college and let them know you would like to offer a part-time job to their students. They will advise you on the right way to post the job or offer recommendations.
If you’re in urgent need of a babysitter, and your family members or friends are not available to help, you can always refer to a few highly-rated websites offering babysitting services for children with autism. While recommendations are crucial in helping you to find a good babysitter, your own evaluation of the recommended sitter is crucial. Before leaving your child in the hands of the sitter, let them play together for a while just to see how they interact with each other.
One of the biggest challenges your babysitter is likely to encounter when looking after your child is ASD-specific self-regulation, which refers to a lack of emotional regulation. A normal person would look away when light flashes in their eyes. Children with autism will react differently as they are usually anxious and often have unexpected reactions. They would interpret a light tap on the head as a physical challenge or intentionally collide with people or objects as they usually crave physical stimuli.
A babysitter also needs to understand the routine of your child with autism. Generally, children with autism thrive with routines and when they know what they can expect. When their routines are changed, they can become stressed which can lead to a meltdown. So, ensure that you inform your babysitter about your child’s pre-set routines. Also, make sure you know how to integrate changes in their routine in case you need to do so for any particular reason.
Once you’ve picked your preferred babysitter, the next step is to prepare so that everything runs smoothly when you leave.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Finding the right babysitter for your child with autism can be challenging, but with patience and perseverance, you can find one that will take away the worry and stress while you’re away. Don’t be in a rush, as finding the perfect sitter is more important than settling for anyone. It’s also important to ensure your babysitter is comfortable while they are babysitting your child in your home. Find out if they’ll bring their own food or not, ensure they sleep in a comfortable place, and know if they’re expecting calls.